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Preparing for a Career in Pharmacy

A pharmacist is a medical professional who uses their medication expertise to promote health and well-being. The role of a pharmacist is to use their medical knowledge to prepare and dispense medications, prevent harmful drug interactions and advise patients on medication use and dosage. Pharmacists are educated in the chemical make-up and use of medications. A pharmacist may work in a pharmacy (such as in a drug or grocery store), hospital or they may conduct clinical research. To practice pharmacy, one must earn a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree and pass a state license exam.

Students can choose different paths to pharmacy school, but must be mindful of the core requirements for competitive applications, preparing for the PCAT exam, gaining appropriate experiences in the field and completing their respective majors. While it is possible for a pre-pharmacy student to do virtually any academic major, it is imperative for all pre-pharmacy students to work closely with both academic and health professions advisors to ensure completion of all requirements for professional schools and for their undergraduate degree. Most often, a student on a pre-pharmacy track will choose a science major such as Biology, Biochemistry/Chemistry or Neuroscience since the curricula include most required and recommended courses. Students will typically apply to pharmacy school between their junior and senior years, allowing for a direct transition following graduation, but some wait until after they graduate to apply in order to further their education and gain more relevant experience.

Pre-Pharmacy Track at Westminster College - Pennsylvania

The academic and extracurricular experience at Westminster College, ranging from coursework to on- and off-campus service and experiential activities to international study and/or travel, contribute strongly to the appeal of the well-trained and well-rounded individuals who graduate from our school.

Students may also choose to participate in one of our articulation agreements with Duquesne University (Duquesne: 2+4 program or Duquesne: 3+4 program) where Westminster students can matriculate directly to Duquesne having met the appropriate requirements.

Core Requirements for Pharmacy School (and for PCAT Exam Preparation) generally are:

  • General Chemistry (with labs) – Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117) and CHE180/230/231
  • Organic Chemistry (with labs) – Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261), Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262)
  • Biology (with labs) – Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201), Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
  • Physics (with labs) – Foundations of Physics I (PHY 141/151), Foundations of Physics II (PHY 142/152)
  • English – Writing (WRI 111) and an additional course (ENG ---) that requires extensive reading, writing and discussion in the English language
  • Statistics – Biostatistics (BIO 206) or Concepts of Statistics (MTH 135)
  • Calculus – Calculus I (MTH 150)

The following courses are also strongly recommended:

  • Biochemistry – Biochemistry Principles (CHE 381)
  • Microbiology – BIO 301
  • Cell and Molecular Biology – BIO 302
  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II (BIO 335/336)
  • Sociology – Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)
  • Psychology – Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)

Additional course requirements may vary from one professional program to another, so it is the responsibility of the student to be aware of specifics regarding their schools of interest. Good planning and working closely with academic and health professions advisors are essential to maximize chances of success in the highly competitive pharmacy school application environment.

What would a typical Pre-Pharmacy schedule look like?

A student on the pre-pharmacy track will often choose to major in biology, biochemistry/chemistry or neuroscience. A sample schedule for a chemistry major preparing to take the PCAT exam between their junior and senior year and matriculating to pharmacy school following graduation is below.

First Year (Fall)
First Year (Spring)
Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201) SD IP
Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117)
Inquiry (INQ 101)
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Westminster 101 (WST 101)
Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
Inorganic Chemistry (CHE 180)
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Elective _________(--- ----) FL IP

Sophomore Year (Fall)
Sophomore Year (Spring)
Calculus I (MTH 150) QR IP
Principles of Physics I (PHY 151)
Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261)
Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101) ST IP
Chemical Analysis (CHE 230/231) Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262) Calculus II (MTH 152) Principles of Physics II (PHY 152)

Junior Year (Fall)
Junior Year (Spring)
Statistics (BIO 206/MTH 135)
Physical Chemistry (CHE 331/337)
Advanced Lab I (CHE 451)
Elective __________ (--- ---) VP IP
Biochemistry (CHE 381)
Advanced Lab II (CHE 452)
Elective ________(--- ---) RP IP
Elective____________(--- ---) HC IP

Senior Year (Fall)
Senior Year (Spring)
Chemistry Capstone I (CHE 600 and 601)
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Chemistry Capstone II (CHE 602)
Chemistry Elective (CHE ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)

With the exception of the core requirements and courses strongly recommended ahead of the PCAT exam, there is curricular flexibility within any chosen major and among the elective courses that are part of the liberal arts curriculum at Westminster College. Students planning to study abroad for a semester must also plan accordingly to meet all requirements and timelines. It is also advisable for students to budget time to prepare for the PCAT exam that will test knowledge in Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry as well as writing, critical reading, and quantitative reasoning.

Extracurricular and Off-Campus Experiences

  • Shadowing a pharmacist
  • Clinical internships
  • Volunteer experience with direct patient contact
  • Research experience in pharmacology/organic chemistry (e.g. Research Experience for Undergraduates)
  • Any experience working with children (e.g. day camp, science camp)
  • Any experience working with disabled people or individuals with special needs

Where have Westminster students matriculated recently?

  • Duquesne University
  • Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) College of Pharmacy
  • Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Pharmacy
  • Temple University

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